08/31/2013 3:00 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Repairs are scheduled to begin at the Shoreham-Wading River track this week.

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Repairs started on the Shoreham-Wading River High School track in July. The track has since been completed.

Shoreham-Wading River High School and other schools in the district received some uplifting news this summer. At the high school, the track was resurfaced, a project that came from a $1.6 million track and tech proposition.

Voters approved the proposition, which was to upgrade the district’s aging computer system, in October.

Watch below to see some of the improvements at SWR this year heading into the 2013-14 school year.

Video via swrschools.org

02/06/13 12:05pm
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO  |  Jack Costas (Center) discusses the new requirements to have proposition construction worked approved by the state at Tuesday night's meeting.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Jack Costas (center) discusses the new requirements to have construction worked approved by the state at Tuesday night’s meeting.

A voter-approved proposition to repair track facilities and install new technology at Shoreham-Wading River schools is in jeopardy.

That came to light at Tuesday night’s school board meeting, after the state education department informed the district the state would not allow planned construction to begin until the district spends more than $1.5 million to correct code violations at Shoreham-Wading River High School.

The $1.6 million track and tech proposition was passed by voters last fall and district administrators had hoped to get started on it this summer.

But new personnel at the education department have told the district that in order to have construction approved, the district must first rectify all the code violations at the high school — even those that have nothing to do with the scope of the proposition, said Superintendent Steven Cohen.

“It does reek of us being held for ransom,” said board member John Zukowski.

“Extortion is a better word for it,” replied Glen Arcuri, the district’s assistant superintendent of finance.

The state has identified dead-end corridors, lack of compliance with federal disability laws in bathrooms and signage, improper door closers and non-fire-rated doors in certain locations that must be fixed. These code violations had been grandfathered into the school, but now the state has come calling to have the issues fixed, Mr. Cohen said.

Until the district creates a plan to spend the additional $1,525,000 needed to fix the violations, the state will not allow any work to begin, Mr. Cohen said. Those funds will now have to be added to a proposition on building science labs and making roof repairs, scheduled for a vote this spring.

Residents will not see taxes rise because of the change since the proposition will be funded by state aid currently in district coffers that needs voter approval to be spent. But board members are still worried the higher price tag would make the proposition difficult to pass.

And if this spring’s proposition were to fail, the previously approved track and tech proposition wouldn’t get off the ground.

“We’re at [the state department of education’s] mercy,” said board member Jack Costas.

Board members fumed over what they said was a sudden about-face by the state that “blindsided” district administrators. The state never notified the district of the change in policy before encouraging local officials to make technology upgrades, frustrating board members.

The state had offered districts more state aid in exchange for approving technology upgrades to match upcoming state requirements by last year, school officials said.

“They pass unfunded mandates to require us to have technology for testing, we pass a proposition to give them that technology, and then they tell us, ‘You can’t build it,’ ” Mr. Zukowski said.

He suggested that the code violations be declared an “emergency repair,” meaning that the board could pull the funds directly from prior year state aid without getting voter approval, which might delay work on the approved proposition.

But Mr. Arcuri said that by calling the code violations “emergencies,” the board would be implying that the school is currently unsafe for students.

“That is a very slippery slope,” he said, adding that ligation would likely be required to fight the state on that designation.

Board members asked if the code violations couldn’t be addressed as part of maintenance for the current school year, but Mr. Arcuri said that because planned maintenance was already being deferred this year to pay for emergency security upgrades in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, there is little money left.

“I’m already stretching the ’12-’13 [budget] that I didn’t prepare for,” Mr. Arcuri said.

The board eventually decided to increase this spring’s proposition to $5,425,000 to pay for fixing the code violations, while also pursuing ways to fit the repairs into the 2013-14 school budget.

“In typical … fashion, they’ve dumped it on us without any time [for us] to think,” said board president William McGrath.

psquire@timesreview.com

09/27/12 2:00pm

FILE PHOTO | Residents will vote Oct. 2 on a $1.64 million technology and athletic facilities proposition.

[Editor's Note: The headline in the print version of this story incorrectly stated the date of the vote as Oct. 1.]

Shoreham-Wading River School District residents are being asked to vote next Tuesday, Oct. 2, on what officials are calling a “Technology and Track proposition,” which includes plans to update the district’s computer systems to meet upcoming state testing requirements and work to resurface the high school’s track.

Voting will be held at the high school gym between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Two presentations supporting the proposition took place at Monday night’s regular school board meeting.

The plan, which would cost the school district $1.64 million, requires voter approval but involves no corresponding tax increase for residents, as the district would use prior year state aid money to complete budgeted projects.

At the meeting, technology committee member Anthony DeLouise made a presentation about the vote that gave a breakdown of the $1.64 million.

“The network we have right now is wired,” Mr. DeLouise said, “We do not have any wireless facilities to any great extent.”

About $449,000, he said, the highest cost included in the breakdown, would cover the creation of a districtwide wireless system and any necessary upgrades to conform with upcoming state-mandated testing requirements for the 2013-14 school year.

According to his PowerPoint presentation, 77 percent of classroom computers are more than five years old and run obsolete versions of Windows — like Windows 95 or Windows XP — that are incapable of running the latest educational software or maintaining streaming video.

“Two weeks ago my wife held a book discussion at our house and we were able to get the author to Skype in to us,” he said. “It was tremendous, really very exciting to watch. This is the type of technology we could afford to our students.”

The rest of the technology portion of the proposition breakdown is as follows: $267,000 to virtualize computer labs, $349,000 for classroom computing solutions, $86,000 for Microsoft licensing and $105,000 for Smartboards for classrooms.

Resurfacing and subsurface repairs to high school track would cost $286,000, Mr. DeLouise added.

Students Keith Steinbrecher, a junior, and Matt Gladysz, a sophomore, spoke at the meeting about the track portion of the vote.

The students said in the beginning of their presentation that tracks should be resurfaced every 10 years. The track at the high school has been resurfaced only once since it was built in 1973, they said, and so is a decade overdue at this point.

Waiting to repair the track has already driven repair costs up to $286,000 from $100,000, adding that the cost number stands to increase to $500,000 if the district waits until the underlying concrete completely gives way completely.

As it stands, the students said, the track is only narrowly passing inspection and in addition to complaints from sports officials about faded lines, cracks and uneven surfaces, they said, the condition of the track also presents a risk for injury.

“We can’t run too far into the first lane or we’ll twist our ankles,” Mr. Gladysz said during their presentation. “Soon our track won’t be able to pass inspection. If we put it off until later, we won’t be able to resurface it anymore.”

Nobody present spoke against the proposition, but board president W.J. McGrath supported it after the students completed their presentation.

“This is work that needs to be done and we’re looking to judiciously use prior state aid funds, and to couple that into projects where there’s some level of state aid reimbursement,” Dr. McGrath said, adding money the board receives in reimbursement will go into the general fund to be used to pay for other parts of the project, such as the Microsoft licensing.

“Everything we do is to return money to the district to maintain programs without taking money out of [the taxpayer’s] pockets,” Dr. McGrath added. “We have had an approach in the past to maintain programs at the cost of not maintaining our buildings … We’re at the tipping point, we can’t ignore them anymore.”

gvolpe@timesreview.com